A YOGI CHA BLOG
Why embracing contrast is essential to your mental health
Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞
Embracing the contrast of your life creates an awareness that we usually don’t access. In fact : it is through experience that we create our understanding of the world. Contrast is the tool to this understanding. We understand what white is by experiencing black.
We understand how joy feels when we have been through sadness.
This is the equation I want to explore:
The path to awakening, to liberation is not one to seek but one to choose. You chose it because it is always here, never somewhere else. The illusion we have that “if only” or “when” is the ego or the mind’s way to survive because in the present moment, in the now, there is no thought, no better or worse. It is only what is. If there is no space for time or thought there is no space for mind or ego and therefore it will always search for it’s space in order to continue it’s existence.
Our tool to choose this path is awareness of what is. When we go through moments that we don’t appreciate, when we are unhappy with what is – the mind is extremely present and we are 100% in the ego thinking. When we are in the mind, we are not allowing ourself to just be here and now. Therefore we cannot awaken, we cannot access liberation.
My thought today is that when in unhappy times, we have a choice to embrace the contrast as a way to take the right path. Unhappy or happy times that is actually. But with this strange year we have gone through and seeing that the next doesn’t seem to change much, many of us feel frustration of not having what they want. This is why I focus on unhappy times today. But to be clear, we have the same difficulty with moments of pure joy. Very quickly we get into the thinking mind and away from the beauty of the present moment and the fear of uncertainty exist there too.
So if your current situation might not be all that great or just not what you thought it would, bring to remembrance that the only constant is change. I’ve said it before, recently event, that our biggest element of frustration in the “unhappiness” is the idea that it will never change. This means, you feel helpless. But since that is even a mathematical impossibility, the situation will only be this as long as every variable in it stays the same. Which it won’t since everything depends on everything else and therefore constantly moving.
Even the fact that you focus on one thing and then another makes the constant of the situation impossible.
(I can take the very simple example to illustrate this: I am feeling abandoned and rejected because my friends aren’t answering my messages. My whole life is a long sad journey and it’s raining. But that is when I realise that I had forgotten to top up my phone and when I do, a receive a message and all of a sudden the sun pops out. I am looking at the moment very differently and really it’s just because I’ve chosen to focus on something different to a minute ago)
This is the very first step that will make the following easier as well. When I can feel confident in the fact that the situation will change (and even better, when I realise I have control over how the situation will change) I can appreciate what I have in front of me. I can savour even, the fact that it is such a contrast to what I have known before or to what I desire. This differentiation, this experience of the opposite, of the contrast is actually simply another proof of the everlasting truth that nothing ever stays the same. Take your yoga practice as a perfect example of this and a way to practice it every single day.
You will see that your practice will be different from one day to the next. To take this into a bigger contrast; allow me to take my own current situation of yoga practice to illustrate my point.
Coming from a tropical environment where my schedule is quite literrally made around my yoga practice and into a, almost 3000 m over the sea, Alp village in mid- December, where my time is absolutely not good for my yoga, I experience a very strong feeling of contrast. It’s hard to practice daily and even if I do, it will never be at the same time. I am usually tired because I have had to adapt my sleep schedule to work and its more or less the opposite to what I prefer and am used to. Not to mention the percentage of humidity in the air, going from over 70-80 to probably max 10 here. As you can imagine, my practice is and feels very different at the moment. In some ways harder but in order ways stronger. I notice how I use my muscles differently and since I hardly break a sweat here, I have quite the different sensation at the end compared to in Bali when I feel emptied on fluids as I lay down for rest. What this contrast does is that it makes me ACUTELY aware of the details in the moment. I become very present. I also become aware of my capacity. That there are things I am capable of that I might not have been or might not BE capable of doing at another point in time. This creates a feeling of humility, not only to my body’s limits and capacities but eventually towards things around me too.
It is a daily reminder that what I have today might not be there tomorrow.
That today I can practice and maybe I am acutely aware that my body isn’t responding as easily in this cold weather but it IS responding. Who knows what the next day might bring?
We all have experienced the “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. Embracing contrast is your antidote to this unfortunate truth. It’s the way to appreciate it while it’s here. It’s a way to know it and turn this truth into the positive aspect instead of the “loss”.
What can we translate that into? GRATITUDE.
We become grateful because we are aware enough to appreciate it, while it’s here. Not “when it’s gone”.
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